The good of philosophy.

Author:Pangle, Thomas
Position:Letter to the Editor

I am grateful to Ralph Hancock for the words of praise with which his review of my book (Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham; April) begins and also for those critical observations in k that are genuinely thought-provoking. But I hope that I may be allowed to point out a very grave misunderstanding and misattribution, and to protest the calumny with which the attack on me reaches its crescendo.

Professor Hancock fairly summarizes my thought when he writes, "belief in God and the decision to obey Him must rest on human knowledge of what is good and true, a knowledge acquired, or at least interrogated, by rational reflection." But he follows this with a sentence that attributes to me a grossly illogical non sequitur: "But once this has been conceded, rationalism, with its insistence on the autonomy of the human intellect, has won the day." How in the world is this entailed, and where did I ever commit such an absurdity?

Yet Prof. Hancock insists that "Pangle returns to this theme toward the end of the book, in a chapter entitled 'Abraham at the Peak.'" "On Pangle's account," the reviewer asserts, "biblical faith terminates in the following impasse: ... either Abraham's deed is completely unintelligible, arbitrary, groundless, and effectively mad--the act of a man who deliberately does what he knows not to be good for him; or it must be explained in terms of rational and egoistic calculation." Here, once again, the position attributed to me is grotesquely absurd: for on what grounds could anyone equate genuinely self-conscious sacrifice or subordination of one's own good with the "completely unintelligible, arbitrary, groundless, and effectively mad"?

Prof. Hancock then goes on to permit himself to speculate for two paragraphs on the "possibility" (for he can of course give absolutely no evidence) that "Pangle does not view philosophy as noble at all--and that he merely employs an exalted rhetoric to attract people, and especially young people" so as to seduce them into the sick view that "the philosopher is merely a hedonist" who "derives his pleasure from voiding the ethical, political, and religious content of life, savoring above all else his ever-renewed awareness of the groundlessness or incoherence underlying his attachment to other human beings." A moment's thought will show that such a caricature could not be a human being and that, in order to be engaged in leading young people toward such a conception of the philosopher, I...

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